Thursday, April 22, 2010

Hopes For The Hub

I talked on April 1 about The Hub, a new kids channel that Hasbro is going to launch on October 10, taking over the channel space filled by Discovery Kids. I said then that I sincerely hoped that Hasbro would shy away from adapting their board games for television - that just doesn't seem like something that would work to me. Well, it still doesn't - but we all know it's going to happen, so I'm going to take two famous Hasbro games and let you know of a foreign game show that epitomizes each of those games. I should stress that this is merely my opinion and that these are two very unlikely things to actually happen, but the way I see it, if Hasbro wanted to make a game show out of these two games, it's already been done in everything but name.

The first of these is one I'm sure everyone who read my April 8 post will have guessed - Scrabble. Now, I can hear you saying "There already was a game show called Scrabble!" This is true, and it was a great game show...but it had virtually nothing to do with Scrabble, and frankly, there's another show I like even better. That's right - I'm talking about Countdown. The fact is that, while I flat out adore Countdown, it would never work on American TV - heck, it would never even get on American TV - without a name Americans know...like Scrabble. I fully realize this is something that will probably never happen because...well, if you were the owner of the format rights to Countdown, which has already been a huge success in many countries, would you want it tied in with a separate property that already has a game show named after it? I would, but I'm not the owner of the format rights to Countdown.

The second game I'm going to suggest here is one that will probably surprise you...Dungeons And Dragons. I can hear you saying "OK, I give up. I can see Scrabble working, but how on earth do you make a game show out of Dungeons And Dragons?" I can answer that question in one word: Knightmare.

A truly unique and ahead of its time television show, Knightmare is a British format that ran in its native country from 1987 to 1994. It had a format very much unlike any other, yet when described, it sounds like a horrific variation on The Money Maze. A team of four kids would enter a medieval antechamber, whereupon the designated dungeoneer would put on a blindfold helmet and enter the show's computer-generated fantasy dungeon. The dungeoneer can't see anything, and even if they could, it would just be a blue-screen room. Fortunately, the three other team members are seated at a screen in the antechamber on which they are shown the completed dungeon image. It is their job to guide the dungeoneer through an endless series of puzzles, characters, traps, and whatever else towards their ultimate goal of walking out of the dungeon alive.

If that description doesn't make sense...well, there's probably no way I could describe this show that makes sense. This team wasn't competing against another for the fastest time out of the dungeon or something...they were just against the dungeon, and this dungeon was big enough that the show had rollover, meaning that games could be carried over from one episode to the next...and some teams lasted three half-hour episodes or more. It was a slow-paced show that managed to build up the kind of suspense that Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? had in its heyday. It also had such a complex medieval atmosphere that there were no prizes and even the gaps between episodes were explained as "temporal disruption." In short, this was certainly a game show, but it had a genuine fantasy feel to it. As it involved a large cast to portray the denizens of the dungeon and must have had an incredibly complex production process, it's probably too much for a new, unknown cable channel replacing Discovery Kids - but if they do decide to give this a try, I'm guessing it would be a lot more like Dungeons And Dragons than the cartoon called that.

There you go. As I've said, this is simply my opinion, and neither of these things is probably ever going to happen. All I'll say now is this - Hasbro, if you do try to develop Scrabble or Dungeons And Dragons for television, do it right. These are games that have very devoted followings of people who hold tournaments and take the game very seriously...talk to them! Get the show approved by the tournament governing bodies (the National Scrabble Association, the Role Playing Gamers Association, etc.) Wishful thinking? Yes...but there's no news this week.

Aaron

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